Tepid Defense of Free Speech at Berkeley

September 9, 2014

By George Leef at National Review Online

Exemplifying the tendency among many academics to take a cautious, wishy-washy stance on free speech, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks of UC-Berkeley recently sent a communication to the entire university community entitled “Civility and Free Speech.” He stated that free expression of ideas is a “signature issue” for the school — but then backtracked, writing that everyone must bear in mind that free speech can lead to “division and divisiveness that undermine a community’s foundation.” Oh, oh. His felt need for a happy Kumbaya community clearly trumps his commitment to robust debate.

Greg Lukianoff of FIRE has a sharp WSJ piece about this. He writes, “After decades of campus censorship, students have been taught not to appreciate freedom of speech, but rather to expect freedom from speech.”

The meaning of Dirks’ admonition is that anyone who might dare to criticize leftist shibboleths — for example, arguing that “affirmative action” is a bad policy, or that Obamacare is counterproductive — should keep their ideas to themselves. Saying such things could make some sensitive people feel that they aren’t “safe and respected.”

Schools: University of California, Berkeley